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What does a Physical Therapy Aide do?

If you are interested in a career in sports medicine, working as a physical therapy aide might be the first step on your career path. Physical therapy aides work under the supervision of physical therapy assistants and licensed physical therapists. They provide assistance during physical therapy sessions by helping keep treatment areas clean and organized. As a physical therapy aide, you also might help patients suffering from mobility issues move about to different stations in the treatment center. You also might help out with clerical tasks, such as answering phones, ordering supplies and sometimes even completing insurance paperwork.

Educational requirements and advancement

Most employers prefer physical therapy aides that have at least a high school diploma, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) finds. However, their counterparts, physical therapy assistants, usually are required to hold at least an associate degree as well as obtain licensure. Physical therapy aides usually learn their job duties through hands-on training, and the American Physical Therapy Association opposes any sort of credentialing requirements for physical therapy aides to promote easy entry into the field.

Many professionals transition into physical therapy assistant roles upon completion of accredited associate degree programs--the second step in your career path to becoming a licensed physical therapist. Without obtaining post-secondary education, your advancement opportunities are extremely limited, the California Employment Development Department reports.

Many of the educational programs at colleges for physical therapy aides provide a baseline education in health-related subjects, such as medical terminology, CPR and first aid procedures. Without completing an accredited associate degree program and obtaining a license, however, you cannot legally directly assist physical therapists or assistants in treatment sessions.

Job outlook and employment options

Half of physical therapy aides are employed in the offices of health practitioners, while another 18 percent work at hospitals and surgical centers. Nursing care facilities and physicians offices both employ about 10 percent of physical therapy aides.

The field is expected to grow by 35 percent, the BLS reports. Job growth is driven by increased demand for physical therapy services from an aging population, as well as by better access to physical therapy services. Licensed therapists also are expected to use more aides than assistants to help control the cost of therapy services, the BLS finds.

California, Texas and New Jersey employed the most physical therapy aides. However, Alaska, Vermont and Hawaii paid the best.

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